Joel Perkins

I remember as a young boy going to square dances at the local Fish and Game Club. I remember the energy in the room and the excitement I felt just being there. There was something special about that experience. I could feel the power of the music and the affect that it had over the dancers. The music spoke to me.

When I was in elementary school my music teacher, Ginny Lund, who just happened to be a good friend of my family noticed my musical aptitude. She approached my parents about it and the next thing I know I was in the library looking at books that had all different types of musical instruments in them. My brother, Jason, was trying to convince me to take up the drums or the guitar, but my excuse was, “everyone plays the drums and guitar.” I quickly settled on the violin. My mom said, “You mean the fiddle?” and I replied, “No, the violin!”

That was the beginning. I started taking lessons beginning with the Suzuki approach, learning everything by ear. Before long, it was time for me to learn how to read music. My formal training meant that I had to travel great distances for my lessons, which looking back, I realize was an immense commitment and sacrifice on my parent’s part. They drove me an hour to the lesson, an hour at the lesson, and an hour back, every week for about 10 years. I am wondering now if they had ulterior motives in doing that. I think they just wanted me hostage in the car to have some “interrogation” time. I loved it though.

I wanted to quit many times yet never did. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that I had put in many years of practice and I couldn’t throw it all away. I’m so glad I didn’t. I continued on until my high school graduation. I got to a level six of six and really didn’t feel the need to explore the repertoire so I took some time off. Not too long after, at a doctor’s appointment, Dr. Barry Kilbourne invited me to join him and his friend, Dr. Tom Minehan, and do some traditional jam music. I was eager and it turned out to be a lot of fun. After that I was hooked. I started attending the weekly Ceili sessions and began to really enjoy the traditional Celtic/Appalachian music.

About this same time, my father was getting ready to retire and I began thinking of something to do for him for his retirement. It was decided to get him a bass guitar so he could also join in on the weekly Ceili session. I loved the time we spent together — it’s a special bond that is meaningful to me.

Not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I began my associate’s degree and within a year discovered I had a love and passion for teaching. I decided to teach music. I applied at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, NY, and was accepted. I began my music education degree.

After attending the Ceili’s, I, along with my dad, quickly formed a band and called it Inisheer. This was the beginning of musical love. We began playing for many different venues in and around the Adirondacks and getting our name out; before long we were playing for big venues and traveling greater distances.

As band members came and went, I really felt a draw to invite Aunt Phyllis to join Inisheer. She brought with her an amazing talent and uniqueness that our band needed. It felt right to have Dad, Aunt Phyllis and me on stage together. Inisheer’s sound grew over the years and my love for the music also grew. Inisheer, during its 10 year life span, published three CD’s and played at large music festivals; one of which was the Great American Irish Festival in Utica, NY.

I have an entire career in front of me. I not only look forward to the challenges but also the achievements that my musical career presents me. My teaching style reflects the wonderful traits I have gained because of my family and I am extremely grateful. It is my family who have given me a sense of who I really am. I am proud to be an educator and have the opportunity to pass my love for music on to others.